Events of last fall changed many things, among them the FAA’s action to push through the proposed sport pilot rule with its definition of a new class of aircraft. Work on the proposed rule has slowed as the FAA focuses on efforts to ensure the air transport system is intact for millions of airline travelers. New rules for aircraft flown primarily for fun were necessarily put on the back burner. As we’ve noted in these pages before, the proposed rule offers significant promise to light aviation, and many experts are sure that the sport pilot NPRM (notice of proposed rulemaking) will still be released for public comment, followed at some point by a new rule. Certainly it represents a breath of fresh air, and that may be just what a beleaguered FAA needs come springtime. Possibilities I’ve had the pleasure of flying a great many of the light aircraft introduced over the last 25 years.
Made in the USA and Yankee friendly! Many pilots and even some experts believe trikes are a European innovation. Indeed, producers across the Atlantic took the breed to new heights, yet the fact remains that the earliest commercial producers of weight-shift trikes were here in the United States. In the early 1980s trikes were primarily an American phenomenon. In the early days, before ultralights had been defined, hang gliders added power and slowly evolved to use wheeled carriages. The first producers included brands that transitioned from the hang gliding world, such as Soarmaster, Bennett Delta Wings, and Flight Designs (no relation to the German producer of the CT). All of these American names, and a good many more, are now gone. Today, when you hear the word trikes, you may think of Air Creation, Cosmos, Pegasus, AirBorne, or other companies from Great Britain, Europe, or Australia. Most of the development work in trikes has seemed to come from imported brands.
Many excellent aircraft may be headed our way Parlez-vous Française? Sprechen Sie Deutsche? Parlate Italiano? Fortunately, to understand European recreational aircraft you don’t need to speak French, German, or Italian. Yet the light-sport aircraft (LSA) that may interest you could come from countries where the mother tongue isn’t English. Welcome to the globalized world of light-sport aircraft where the workers who built your plane may speak Polish, Russian, Hungarian, or Latvian in addition to French, German, or Italian. Though many intriguing ultralights come from Europe and Americans have seen a few of these, many are a complete surprise to Yankee pilots. That will change. Last year after EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2002 ended, I traveled to Blois (pronounced Blwah), France, a town about 200 kilometers south of Paris. There I attended the 22nd salon (or air show) that organizers present at this location each year in late summer. Let’s take a walk around the salon at Blois.